IN A BLUE MOOD
Jonathan Ng The Sphynx
“The Sphynx” is the sophomore by Seattle-based jazz violinist, vocalist, and bandleader Jonathan Ng. Ng specializes in the style of small-group swing jazz, which in part draws upon his experience and expertise as a lindy hop, balboa, and blues dancer. This album is a six-song EP of ebullient, toe-tapping swing jazz in the manner of early swing small groups such as Chu Berry-Roy Eldridge or Count Basie’s small combos, with a touch of Gypsy Jazz tossed in. Supporting Ng and his violin Albert Alva: tenor saxophone; Luca Pino: Guitar; Chris Dawson: Piano; Seth Ford-Young: Upright Bass; and Josh Collazo: Drums
Ng has a full-rich tone on the violin, and an outstanding ensemble backs him. He leads us through a varied set of numbers starting with the title number where his trumpet-like lines (think Stuff Smith) and the burly tenor sax of Alva (think of a mix of Ben Webster and Illinois Jacquet) impress while Dawson comps and Pino plays rhythm like Freddie Green. Kudos to Ford-Young and Collazo as they consistently swing the music.
The rest of the program includes Chu Berry’s turbulent “Maelstrom,” with Pino adds some Django Reinhardt inflected guitar. On an excellent rendition of Ray Charles’ “Rockhouse,” Dawson evokes Charles on piano. Pino plays more in the manner of Charlie Christian than Django on this selection. The interplay between Alva and Ng, along with their meaty soloing, is excellent throughout such as on the renditions of Erskine Hawkins’ “Gin Mill Special,” and Illinois Jacquet’s “Embryo.” The rhythm section provides a lilting swing on these wonderfully paced performances.
Alva sits out the lovely rendition of gypsy jazz styled performance “Stardust.” Ng’s version of “Stardust” contrasts with the other performances on this recording that are more in the vein of the swing era small combo jazz. It closes a superb, if too short, collection of swing jazz performances. This available from Bandcamp among other stores.
I received a review copy from a publicist. Here is a video for “The Sphynx.”